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Like its sperm-donor hero, Starbuck suffers from daddy issues

An ostensibly feel-good French-Canadian comedy about artificial insemination gone awry, Ken Scott's Starbuck mainly makes you feel like taking a shower. The protagonist is a hapless forty-year-old Montreal bachelor named David (Patrick Huard, resembling a younger, hunkier Daniel Auteuil, without the wild-eyed intensity), whose life is turned upside down when he learns that his sperm-donating spree twenty years ago has resulted in 142 children (now an attractive gallery of college-age hipsters, all of whom, oddly, are just dying to meet him). Will he take the easy way out and remain anonymous? Or will he step up and embrace fatherhood? Take a wild guess. The humor here is broad and sitcom-ish, and Scott displays little sense of rhythm; the film runs under two hours but feels considerably longer. And while there are nice touches along the way — notably, a crosscut sequence in which David tries to get a glimpse of some of his kids without their noticing — the film's second half crescendos into full-on shmaltz. I gave up hope when all 142 of David's offspring gathered for a weekend getaway of sing-alongs, pick-up soccer and lakeside frolicking; the whole thing looks like an extended United Colors of Benetton ad (or a cult excursion), and Scott indulges in such cringe-inducing flourishes as a montage of close-ups showing the half-brothers' and -sisters' various tattoos. From there, Starbuck devolves into a series of heart-to-hearts (cue cloying music) and, despite its self-consciously contemporary subject matter, reveals a dismayingly retro message: Life has no meaning unless a biological father is front and center.

 
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